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Of Special Interest ...examining a significantly timely topic

Jan 06 2022

Research Preview: Style Swings In 2021

  • Jan 6, 2022

Despite elevated uncertainty over pandemic developments and expected policy tightening, and in the face of aggressive valuations, the S&P 500 still managed to gain a delightful +28.7% in 2021. Even more noteworthy, in our opinion, is that this advance came with nary a single correction of more than 10%.

Dec 16 2021

Discretionary Durables: A Bubble In Fun

  • Dec 16, 2021

Extremely loose monetary and fiscal policies during the pandemic have created distortions and disequilibria throughout the economy. The most visible bubbles may be in financial markets, evidenced by the boundless valuations applied to visionary startups and the speculative fascination for digital assets of all types. This report examines a bubble of a different kind; not a financial bubble but rather a real-world bubble in “fun”. Producers of recreational goods are flourishing during the pandemic, posting massive sales gains and a tripling of net income, yet selling for miniscule valuations.

Dec 06 2021

Research Preview: Discretionary Durables

  • Dec 6, 2021

While retail spending has boosted staples and durables alike, we believe that discretionary durables have been the prime beneficiary of changing lifestyles and spending patterns, with skyrocketing sales and inventory outages that may not reach equilibrium even in 2022. 

Nov 04 2021

Tis The Season For Factor Tilting

  • Nov 4, 2021

Factor investing has gained wide popularity in recent years, enabled by a proliferation of smart-beta ETFs coming to market, which opened new opportunities for tactical investors. In 2018, we launched our Factor Tilt ETF strategy, and here we discuss how we’re now enhancing it by adding Seasonal Cyclicality to our analytical toolbox for evaluating factor conditions.

Oct 20 2021

Emerging Markets EPS: There's Many A Slip...

  • Oct 20, 2021

If there is one thing sure to make equity investors swoon, it is the prospect of buying into a credible, long-lived secular growth story at a relatively modest valuation. Over the past three decades, Emerging Markets (EM) have proffered just such an opportunity. EM’s economic growth rates have far surpassed those of developed nations, and the valuations attached to EM stocks have often been at a discount to other markets.

However, this combination of secular growth and attractive valuations has not always paid off for investors. The MSCI Index has underperformed the U.S., Europe, and even Japan over the last ten years in local currencies. Furthermore, EPS growth for the EM Index has come in far below its economic growth rate, creating an exasperating drag on Index performance as it tries to keep up with other regions.

Oct 06 2021

Research Preview: Emerging Markets’ Leaky Bucket

  • Oct 6, 2021

Investors view Emerging Markets (EM) as the best source of economic growth across global equity markets, and rightly so. Annualized EM GDP growth of 8.6% since 2001 is more than double that of the U.S. and Europe. However, investors have not captured this extraordinary advance because earnings per share for the MSCI EM Index have lagged far behind EM economic growth rates.

Sep 22 2021

Q'Val: A Factor Powerhouse

  • Sep 22, 2021

Quant researchers widely agree that Value offers a return premium over time (although not recently) and that High Quality also offers excess returns. The Quality angle seems contrary to intuition, in that investors generally prefer Quality companies and are willing to pay up for them, yet Quality regularly outperforms. Value and Quality are both well-respected investment factors, and we were curious to explore the interaction of these two smart beta stalwarts. Is Value enhanced by adding a layer of Quality, thereby avoiding value traps, or are Value investors better off buying junky, unattractive companies that have the most room to rebound from depressed prices?

 

Aug 23 2021

Can Mo Outrun A Bear?

  • Aug 23, 2021

Hiker #1: Can you run faster than that hungry bear looking at us?

Hiker #2: I don’t need to run faster than the bear, I just need to run faster than you.

The Momentum style of investing has a long history of generating excess returns, and ranks near the top of the list of essential smart beta factors. However, Momentum also has a dark side; it is prone to severe drawdowns whenever the market makes a significant reversal.

Jul 21 2021

Tactical Junk

  • Jul 21, 2021

High yield bonds returned a robust 15.4% in the year ending June 30, extending a winning streak that produced a 56.4% cumulative return since the end of 2015.  After a quick, severe drawdown at the height of the COVID-19 scare, junk bonds have experienced nearly ideal market conditions, heralding a return to trends that have been in place for several years. The post-pandemic move toward this record low has been a boon to high yield bond investors, but it has also created a significant risk of reversal.  We believe most things in the financial markets are defined by cycles, with Treasury yields and credit spreads no exception.  Tight readings for both rate series demand that we consider the possibility that a cyclical reversal could weigh on junk bond prices going forward.

Jul 07 2021

Research Preview: High Yield’s Heyday

  • Jul 7, 2021

High yield corporate bonds returned over +15% for the twelve months ended June 30th, building on a strong five-year run that was interrupted by a short, but painful, drop at the onset of COVID-19. Chart 1 indicates that high yield bonds compound at a remarkably steady rate, with infrequent but severe drawdowns during times of financial stress.

Jun 16 2021

Schrödinger’s Style Box

  • Jun 16, 2021

The performance derby between actively managed portfolios and passive benchmarks is strongly influenced by market conditions.  Active manager success rates are cyclical, but not random, and are driven by slippage created from style, size, and weighting considerations that result from the imperfect slotting of active portfolios into single style boxes.  Moreover, this slippage can be defined and measured, and shows a clear correlation with relative return spreads between benchmarks and their opposite boxes.

Jun 04 2021

Research Preview: Is “Manager Skill” Cyclical?

  • Jun 4, 2021

The active-passive performance derby is cyclical, determined not by the ebb and flow of portfolio managers’ brilliance but, rather, by market conditions and the slippage that arises from imperfectly comparing funds and benchmarks. 

May 19 2021

Small Cap Synchronicity

  • May 19, 2021

Small cap stocks are often seen as a bullish, risk-on, pro-cyclical asset class. They benefit from economic growth, rising inflation, widening margins, and the willingness of investors to move out on the risk spectrum. The pandemic recovery has created these very conditions, and small caps responded right on cue by posting a blockbuster price gain of 130% since the COVID-19 bear market low of March 23, 2020. Because the pandemic was a global economic and health care catastrophe, we were curious to see if small caps behaved similarly in other regions.

May 06 2021

Research Preview: Global Small Caps

  • May 6, 2021

U.S. small caps have posted blockbuster price gains coming off the pandemic bear-market low in March 2020. We were curious to see how international small caps have performed since then, and launched this project to learn how this asset class has recently behaved in other regions.

Apr 21 2021

Valuing The Experiential Reopening

  • Apr 21, 2021

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 brought a sudden halt to social gatherings, crowd events, and even personal contacts. Experiential business models were hardest hit by forced closures and lockdowns; cruise ships were forbidden to sail, restaurants and theme parks were closed, and air travel and hotel occupancy dwindled, all in an attempt to minimize personal interactions. The stocks of leisure services companies took a beating in March 2020, with Chart 1 documenting the virus’ impact on 34 large and midcap stocks representing this theme.

Apr 07 2021

Research Preview: The Experiential-Reopening Trade

  • Apr 7, 2021

A strong argument can be made that experiential consumer services was the economic sector hardest hit by the pandemic lockdown. Cruise ships were forbidden to sail, restaurants and theme parks were closed, and air travel and hotel occupancy dwindled—all in an attempt to minimize personal/public interaction. The stocks of experiential companies took a beating in March 2020.

Mar 17 2021

Valuation Extremes: Here Be Dragons

  • Mar 17, 2021

Top decile valuations are often the result of unduly positive investor sentiment that leads to inflated multiples. Bullishness comes in varying strengths: optimism, enthusiasm, exuberance, and, at the extreme, the mania of crowds. Because bullishness manifests itself in aggressive valuations for speculative companies, we believe the prices being applied to such companies - for which intrinsic value is dependent on a future that looks significantly different than today - are an excellent measure of investor sentiment. In that spirit, we examined past cycles of extreme valuations with the goal of understanding how they relate to investor sentiment and what they might tell us about market conditions and relative returns.

Mar 04 2021

Research Preview: A Tale Of Two Tails

  • Mar 4, 2021

Top decile valuations, such as those in place today, are usually the result of excessively positive investor sentiment that leads to inflated multiples. Bullishness comes in varying strengths: optimism, enthusiasm, exuberance, and, at the extreme, the mania of crowds. Leuthold research typically tracks valuation sentiment by examining median P/E ratios, but in this study, we are taking the opposite tack. Rather than looking at medians, we are focusing on the outliers in each tail of the valuation distribution.

Feb 12 2021

Kindred Spirits: Financials And The Value Style

  • Feb 12, 2021

Investors looking for the long-awaited rebound in the Value style point to the potential for rising interest rates as a possible driver of style rotation. Higher rates would benefit many Financial companies, a sector closely linked to the Value style. In fact, many commentators believe that the Value style cannot experience a major run without the participation of Financials. We launched a research effort to examine the link between Financials and Value, seeking to understand whether there is truth in this old saw, or whether this connection is more properly classified as market folklore.

Feb 04 2021

Research Preview: Are Financials And Value “Best Friends Forever?”

  • Feb 4, 2021

Investors looking for the long-awaited rebound in the Value style point to the potential for rising interest rates as a possible driver of style rotation. Higher rates would benefit many Financial companies—a sector closely linked to the Value style. In fact, numerous commentators believe that Value cannot experience a major run without the participation of Financials.